The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) is the first regional government-to-government agreement to promote and enhance cooperation against piracy and armed robbery in Asia. In its Annual Report for 2016, the following data regarding piracy and armed robbery against ships are discussed.
There has been a significant improvement in the situation of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia in 2016 compared to the past four years (2012-2015). The total number of incidents reported in 2016 has decreased by 58% compared to 2015. A total of 85 incidents were reported in 2016 compared to 203 incidents in 2015. Of the 85 incidents reported in 2016, five were incidents of piracy occurred in the South China Sea and 80 were incidents of armed robbery against ships, mostly occurred at ports and anchorages. 2016 has the lowest total number of reported incidents amongst the five-year reporting period of 2012-2016.
The decrease in overall numbers for 2016 was most apparent in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS). Two incidents were reported in the SOMS in 2016 compared to 104 incidents reported there in 2015. The improvement in SOMS was due to joint coordinated patrols and enhanced surveillance carried out by the littoral States and stringent enforcement on land. This had resulted in several arrests of the perpetrators responsible for the incidents occurred in 2015. There were also improvement in incidents involving hijacking of ships for theft of oil cargo. Three incidents were reported in 2016 compared to 12 incidents in 2015. Other improvements were reported at ports and anchorages in Vietnam and Bangladesh.
However, of serious concern was incidents involving the abduction of crew from ships while underway in the Sulu-Celebes Sea and waters off eastern Sabah which accounted for 10 of the 13 Category 1 incidents. Most of these incidents were claimed by a terrorist group based in the Philippines. The other three Category 1 incidents involved the hijacking of ships for theft of oil cargo. The authorities had successfully arrested the perpetrators involved in one of the incidents, and recovered the stolen cargo. Except for the Category 1 incidents, there was decrease in the number of incidents across all categories of incidents in 2016 compared to the past four years (2012-2015).
The overall improvement of the situation of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia in 2016 demonstrates the effectiveness of the information sharing mechanism of ReCAAP; and the close cooperation and collaboration among the ReCAAP ISC, ReCAAP Focal Points, regional authorities, partner organisations and the shipping community. While the overall statistics show a significant decrease in number of incidents in 2016, incidents involving abduction of crew from ships while underway in the Sulu-Celebes Sea and waters off eastern Sabah remain a serious concern. Therefore, there is no room for complacency.
The ReCAAP ISC urges all enforcement agencies to beef up surveillance and patrols; and relevant authorities to implement port security measures, particularly in areas of concern. The ReCAAP ISC also encourages ship masters and crew to exercise enhanced vigilance while underway, maintain watch-keeping while at ports and anchorages, and adopt relevant preventive measures taking reference from the “Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia”.